How did Norfolk's pubs get their names?
PUBLISHED: 14:30 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:56 29 March 2019
Daryl Long of Norfolk Record Offices reveals the vast former estate of Bullard's Brewery and how pubs from its heyday were named and used.
Bullard’s Brewery has long been synonymous with East Anglia. In 1895, shortly before it became a listed company it owned or leased over 440 estates. And in the late 19th century, eight volumes of plans detailing their estates were drawn up, the majority by surveyor Walter F.Browne.
Most properties were inns, taverns or hotels that contained a pub within. The terms pub, or public house do not appear in any of the plans, however, for ease, this article will use the term pub to refer to all the above. There was a distinct difference between such an establishment and a standalone pub; an inn or tavern usually meant that food and accommodation was available. Inns were usually along highway routes with stabling available for horses.
Any trip through an English village will demonstrate the importance of a pub’s name. There are a huge variety, some well-known some rather peculiar, most have a history. Names ending in arms often reflected an allegiance to a local dignitary or place. The Hoste Arms at Burnham Market was named after Captain Sir William Hoste who served under Lord Nelson.
However, this was not always the case. The Butchers Arms Inn, Bungay, took its name from the butcher’s shop on site and the estate included extensive slaughterhouses and piggeries.
Some names refer to well-known people such as The Marquis of Granby Inn on Bishopgate Street, Norwich, named after a commander in the Seven Years War. Many soldiers leaving the army became publicans and would often name their pub after a commander they had admired.
By contrast The Paul Pry Tavern on Grapes Hill, Norwich was named after a fictitious character in a play of the same name, to be a ‘Paul Pry’ is to be a nosy person! Many names have an obvious association with a location or trade with references to the monarchy always popular. The Balloon Tavern on Westwick Street, Norwich, led down to the Balloon Wharf on the river Wensum. It was at the Balloon that, in September 1860, licensee Edward Crowe found the body of Robert Nockold floating in the river.
Many of the Bullard’s estates had been pubs for decades, even centuries, prior to their purchase. This history as well as local geography, played a large role in the physical layout of a pub. Many often occupied a corner plot. The Vine Tavern, wrongly written as The Wine Tavern on the plan, in Dove Street, Norwich, has one of the most compact sites of all. By contrast The Bull Inn at Aylsham was long and thin, while some estates, like The White Horse Inn at Blakeney were separated by other properties.
In the 19th century, when living conditions were often crowded, the pub was not only a place to drink but, somewhere other activities could be enjoyed. Games were often played such as skittles and boules, there were also club rooms and gardens.
As the plans of The Greyhound Inn and Butchers Arms show, houses and businesses were also a common feature of the estates. In rural areas the plot would often include piggeries, orchards and farmland as well as stables for horses. At The Rose Cottage Tavern in Wendling there was even a school.
A small number of plans did not include a pub at all. One such was a grandiose house on Duke Street, Norwich. This was owned by Walter Richard L’Estrange who married into the Bullard family. Another non-pub plan is that of the Empire Music Hall sitting between Upper and Lower Goat Lane in Norwich.